The Most Influential Classical Chinese Poems

Li Bai

Thoughts in the Silent Night

Beside my bed a pool of light—

is it hoarfrost on the ground?

I lift my eyes and see the moon,

I bend my head and think of home.

Crows Calling at Night

Yellow clouds beside the walls—crows roosting near.

Flying back, they caw, caw—calling in the boughs.

In the loom she weaves brocade, the Qin river girl.

Made of emerald yarn like mist, the window hides her words.

She stops the shuttle, sorrowful, and thinks of a distant man.

She stays alone in the lonely room, her tears just like the rain.

Bai Juyi


Boundless grasses over the plain

come and go with every season.

Wildfire never quite consumes them—

they are tall once more in the spring wind.

Sweet they press on the old high-road

and reach the crumbling city-gate . . .

O Prince of Friends, you are gone again . . .

I hear them sighing after you.

Cao Zhi

The Brothers

People burn the beanstalk to boil beans,

the beans in the pot cry out.

We are born of the selfsame root,

Why should you torment me so much?

Du Fu

Facing Snow

After the battle, many new ghosts cry,

the solitary old man worries and grieves.

Ragged clouds are low amid the dusk,

snow dances quickly in the whirling wind.

The ladle’s cast aside, the cup not green,

the stove still looks as if a fiery red.

Too many places, communications are broken,

I sit, but cannot read my books for grief.